REVIEW: Safe Houses: A Novel

The first chapter takes the reader back forty-plus years when the Cold War was winding down. In an era when women intelligence officers are few and far between, Helen Abell manages all of West Berlin’s CIA safe houses, where case officers secretly meet with their field agents.

While inspecting one of the properties, Helen overhears two unrelated events – one a conversation that she thinks is some kind of coded communication, and later in the day, a rape that she interrupts that was committed by a powerful senior CIA officer. Her attempts to bring it to light sets her on the run with the help of two other  women who know of other rapes this man has inflicted.

This story reaches across the decades when the author cuts to a seemingly unrelated murder in 2014. The way the author moves both storylines forward and how they begin to intersect is masterful and keeps the reader turning the pages. What is also fascinating is how the author anchors a MeToo story in the 1970s world of the CIA, bringing great sympathy to the trio of women risking their lives to hold this man accountable.